January 6, 2023, 7:07 pm
Buy/Low or Sell/High
For all intents and purposes we are half way through the fantasy regular season and it’s time to admit if you are going to be a buyer or seller in the back nine. Assuming most people participate in redraft leagues, there are generally two ways to try and improve your team going forward. You can either trade for short term gains and trade for a player playing below his standards or play the long game and trade a potentially over performing player for a player that has yet to hit his stride. If you are playing in an h2h format, there is another interesting way to improve your team in the interim.
Playoff schedule can be the great equalizer and it can make or break a team if it is not accounted for accurately. I can’t tell you how many teams I’ve seen dominate the regular season, only to lose to an eight seed because two of their three best players were on two game weeks in the first round. While the fantasy playoff schedule can often be used to overcompensate at draft time, it remains a valuable in-season tool. If it is used correctly, it can be the sword that separates you on the battlefield when all the chips are in the middle.
For the most part, the playoff schedule usually breaks fairly evenly across all fantasy teams and often times it doesn’t even factor in. Most teams often get eliminated before they have a chance to even reap the rewards of a great schedule. Having a player with a four game finals is great in theory, but what are the odds you are still in the running at that point, especially if had a stud on a two game week in the first/second round. The playoff schedule has kind of an inverted value. The earlier the games, the more valuable they are because they are more likely to be actualized.
For this week, it’s fairly simple. If you are currently a high seed and have a stud playing a two game week in the first round, it might be worth trading that player to a non-playoff team who doesn’t possess the same fear. Conversely, if you are battling for the playoffs or find your squad several games out, it might be time to move one of your studs with an 11/12 game slate for a much better player with a worse playoff schedule. We can only use the tools at our disposal and we can only fight the battles we think we can win. You might be slightly lowering your chances to win the title in the end, but who cares if you have the best playoff team that doesn’t make the playoffs.
I’m going to write two versions of this schedule manifesto and the first will start with teams whose playoffs start in week 20 and the second will start in week 21. Also, some leagues will have first round byes, but it’s a little early to start factoring in that advanced math.
Paul George: (Week 20 2/3/3)
George has been cooking lately and it recently appeared that he finally got healthy (fingers crossed) and hot at the perfect time. He’s a top-25 player on the season, is shooting the ball efficiently from the field and is alternating as the lone star or dual co-star on any given night. George’s arrow is pointing up and thus, it’s the perfect time to move him. He’s also nursing a hamstring injury that might be worse than it is and if we know anything about hamstrings, it’s that they tend to linger.
If you are crushing your league and your playoffs start in week 20, you MUST move George. There is no debate, no haggling and no quarter if you fail. The Clippers have the worst playoff schedule for starting week 20 that I have ever seen. If you have George with the playoffs starting week 21, you are fine and there is no need to panic.
The good news is that not all fantasy GMs are obsessed with playoff schedules and many don’t look until it’s too late. It might be a shade early to let the playoff schedule dictate your decisions, but if you wait too long, you might not get full value in return.
The Bucks and Nuggets have the best schedule for the first two weeks of the playoffs and that is where I would target my efforts. Obviously, getting Giannis Antetokounmpo or Nikola Jokic straight up for George isn’t going to happen, but you could attach another top-30 player and try to swing for the fences.
It’s probably more realistic to try and target Jrue Holiday or Brook Lopez. You could easily get either one for George and in the long run that’s a winning trade, but in fantasy, it pays to be greedy. Holiday is ranked in the top-40 and Lopez in the top-30, but George exists at least one tier above each player. Try and move George for Holiday/Lopez and at least another top-50 player. Be careful though, you are moving the better player and thus have all the leverage. The reason we are starting this early is because we can afford to be patient, dictate the terms and if need be, wait a couple weeks until we get the best deal possible.
Nikola Vucevic (Week 20 2/3/4)
Vucevic is in a similar position to George. In a week 20 format, he’s a league sinker and in week 21, he’s a pretty solid asset. The Bulls though are in a tricky spot because as currently constructed they are not a winning basketball team. They also seem to be on the verge of self-imploding, but unfortunately, the Bulls don’t have the luxury of their own first round pick unless it falls in the top-four. That means they are going to have to decide fairly quickly whether they are going on a Titanic level tank or try and right the ship and remain competitive.
Either way, Vucevic isn’t likely to be on the Bulls active roster when the fantasy playoffs are in full swing. They will probably trade him or sit him. Currently, he’s a top-30 player on the season and has been playing his best ball over the last month. The caveat is that he could get traded to a contending team that sees his value gets overhauled, but Vucevic doesn’t really have the skill set that contending teams desire. Also, we have seen that happens when you assume a player will get traded, it often drags on and leaves you holding the bag. For fantasy, Vuc is one of the best commodities over the last half decade and he should fetch a pretty penny for those less concerned about his playoff schedule.
The Hawks and Heat also have a solid early playoff schedule and targeting Bam Adebayo, Dejounte Murray or even Trae Young would likely be a win in the long run. Young is only a top-60 player this season, but historically he heats up right around the fantasy playoffs.
Lauri Markkanen (Week 20 3/2/4)
Markannen has made the buy/sell list in almost every format so far this season because he evolved from a flash in the plan, to an undervalued stud, to now being too good to trade. The Jazz, sadly have a terrible playoff starting schedule in either week 20 or 21 and if you drafted Markkanen, there is a very good chance he has carried you near the top of your league.
He’s currently ranked inside the top-20 on the season and is a top-10 player over the last month. In a similar fashion to how I said to trade Anthony Davis before he got hurt, it’s time to move Markkanen before something irreversible happens. He’s breaking every rule of fantasy so far this season and it’s a safe bet that his luck runs out at some point. He’s like a roulette wheel that’s landed on red 15 times in a row. Even if he doesn’t crash land, you can still trade him for a player that will be in a better position to help you come playoff time. Targeting Holiday and Lopez would be a worthwhile venture or maybe you use Markkanen as bait to try and go for a whale. If you offered him and another top-25 player for Giannis/Jokic, it would be incredibly difficult for an opposing GM to turn down that kind of value.
Anthony Edwards/Karl-Anthony Towns (Week 20 2/4/3)
This one is tough because both of these players are fantasy supernovas and are generally the exact kind of player you want rostered when push comes to shove. Ant has gone an epic tear since Towns went down and he should remain a stud going forward, even assuming a small value hit when Towns returns.
Towns’ value is a bit up in the air until he returns from his injury and proves he can stay healthy. Calf strains are tricky and not to be trifled with. Either way, I wouldn’t move either player right now, but I would work very hard to make sure neither is on my team when the playoffs start. A two-game week in the first round isn’t a death blow and you can sustain it with lesser players, but it’s a very, very tough hill to climb when it’s a first/second round player.
Ant is one of the easiest players in fantasy to trade; everyone wants a piece of him. You might be able to move him and another top-60 player for James Harden (4/3/4) or Kevin Durant (4/3/4). You could also try and do a straight up deal for Kyrie Irving or aim for Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey. In the playoffs you want to overwhelm your opponent with man games because you can’t control the chaos, you can only hope to channel it in your favor.
Desmond Bane (Week 20 3/4/4)
The Grizzlies have a solid playoff schedule and the only downside is the three game week in week 20. It would be exponentially better to have it be a 4/4/3, but those are the breaks. I know it might seem like small detail, but when you are in a playoff battle, it always seems like the guys with four game weeks are playing every night.
Bane missed 17 games with his toe injury and hasn’t looked great in his return, which has a hidden benefit of suppressing his immediate value. Whoever drafted Bane just had to eat all those man games and as a result probably took a decent hit in the standings. Before he went down, Bane was on fire and was contributing across the board, especially in dimes. There are few complementary players with futures as bright as Bane and he’s the perfect target to slightly overpay now in order to benefit massively when it counts.
The Clippers, Knicks, Suns, Wolves, Spurs and Bulls all have two game weeks to start the playoffs and I would probably take Bane over any player on their roster with the close exception of Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns and maybe Anthony Edwards. I would bet that Bane is more valuable over the playoffs for totals than any player on the Knicks, Spurs or Bulls. This is a framework to try and re-align the values of certain players based on the playoff schedule. Our biggest goal is to minimize having any studs playing two games in either of the first two rounds.
Jalen Green (Week 20 3/4/4)
Anyone who had Jalen Green last season remembers what he did in the fantasy playoffs. He seemingly shot 12-of-20 from the field every game and dropped 30 points like it was a stroll in the park. Now Green is a year older and a year stronger, but so far he hasn’t been a year better. He’s ranked outside the top-175 for the season, but that’s mostly because his FG% is a ghastly .417 on 17.6 shots per game.
Next to the word streaky is probably a picture of Green in the dictionary and so far this season, it’s mostly been a cold streak. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Green in an all-world talent and he might just be one of those guys that always has a monster second-half (see Damian Lillard). Unfortunately, there is only a one year sample size for this trend, but if he turns it around for fantasy playoffs, he could swing multiple categories on his own over his 11 playoff games.
The bad news is that you are going to have to overpay for Green now. Anyone who drafted him likely did so knowing they were going long on Green. I would start with a top-100 player for him, but if you want really want him, then you might have to offer a top-75 guy (Terry Rozier, Zach LaVine), but make sure you offer a good player with a bad playoff schedule. This is a bet you want to pay off in March and if it does pay off in a similar fashion to last season, it might end up being a winner, winner; chicken dinner.
Tobias Harris (Week 20 4/3/4)
Harris is one of the most underrated players in fantasy. He’s only missed three games this season and has played at least 62 games in each of the last four seasons. He’s ranked inside the top-40 this season and the Sixers have two stars that have each been injured this season. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere and he can probably be had for a player of less value, but a better reputation.
I would try and move Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan or Chris Paul for Harris. Harris isn’t a player who will carry you to a title, but he could be a key cog and he’s definitely a guy you can bank on being there where you need him. If Joel Embiid or James Harden are injured/rested, his value jumps significantly. Four games from Harris are going to be better than two games from just about anyone.
Jrue Holiday/Brook Lopez (Week 20 4/4/3)
This is a package deal because both players are on the same team and each possesses an amazing playoff schedule. The 4/4/4 obviously the cream of the crop, but the 4/4/3 is a close second. Khris Middleton (knee) hasn’t been right all season and he’s clearly having a year from hell. Obviously, Giannis Anteokounmpo isn’t going anywhere, but he often gets rest days down the stretch. That could leave Holiday running and executing the offense by himself.
Lopez has only missed one game this season after only playing in 13 games last season. They might give him the occasional rest game on B2Bs (which they do have in week 20 and in week 21), but him and Lopez are about as good bets as you can make to help you dominate the fantasy playoffs. Lopez is ranked higher than Holiday, but their value is pretty closely linked. Targeting either one should depend on what categories you want to strengthen going forward as they are almost total opposites. At gun point, I would pick Lopez even though he has a little more injury risk, but I love blocks more than just about anyone.